Archiving Ephemera – The Case of Netprov; Graphic Design in Re-Presenting Electronic Literature

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

How will electronic literature look 100 years from now? This question is two-fold: 1) How will literary projects of 2014 that are written/performed in social media and short-lived web platforms greet the eyes of future readers? 2) what will theelectronic literature in current use by the people of the future look like to them?
In this talk I will focus on consideration of the first question and speculate briefly on some clues about the second.
“You should make it look as much like Twitter as possible!” I have already heard this admonition several times in the course of beginning to create archives for some 2013 netprov projects — Center for Twitzease Control, Tournament of la Poéstry, SpeidiShow. As a graphic designer something makes me uneasy about this. Why? Because Twitter’s graphic designers are . . . how to say this diplomatically? . . . doing their best under a lot of pressure. From a historicalgraphic design point of view, the look of those hugely popular digital applications is adequate, but definitely not optimum, not nearly as aesthetically or functionally strong as it could be.
The problems of simply ‘making netprov look like Twitter’ in an archive are manifold. Twitter’s design highlights information useful for readers in real time, but unnecessary and distracting for later readers. Twitter repeats user avatar images with each post, an effect that becomes like a heavy and distracting visual drumbeat for readers experiencing a longer narrative. Most importantly, Twitter formats texts in descending chronological order, necessitating a cumbersome, stair-stepping reading behavior — clawing one’s way up from the bottom — if one is to read in a sustained way.
On a deeper level, privileging the original format is problematic. By analogy, wouldn’t we always need to read Jane Austen only in autograph manuscript to get the “real experience?” Or would a facsimile of the first typeset version qualify? As is so often the case, there is an almost willful denial of the materiality of visible language, and therefore of the crucial role of the graphic designer.
I will argue that we should not let Twitter’s, Facebook’s, Google’s, even Apple’s graphic designers dictate how we archive electronic literature.
I will present case studies from my own, students’ and professional graphic designers’ work as I wrestle with how to capture the liveliness of netprov performance in archive form in hopes that it can be of broad use to electronic literature creators and scholars wishing to create archives.
I will conclude by extrapolating briefly from the current scene to look ahead to possible visible language formats of the future.

(Source: Author's Abstract)

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Elias Mikkelsen